Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A great underground experience!

I meant to post this a few weeks ago when I was down in Glasgow looking at the ugly new Transport Museum emerging down by the Kelvin. I haven't been on the underground for years and boy was I impressed. Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) the guys who run this show have really got their act together in recent times with advertising plastered about all over the place - on walls, on trains, on windows, on ticket machines and even on the floors. It looks great! Far better than the original brown and cream look from the 1980s. I'll tell you something else - if you go to some Continental cities like Berlin or London you won't see anything like this. They haven't got the advertising bug or frankly, the sheer class, that makes Glasgow's underground railway so great - it's in your face and must swell the coffers of the company massively.

Another great thing is that they save public money by shutting down the escalators at the busiest times of day which also saves on maintenance costs. Oh yes and I forgot to mention the booming public address system that puts the fear of death into fare dodgers. Overall I'm very impressed that a public organisation pretending to be a private company behaves in this exemplary manner.

But the SPT got caught out recently by the Council. They installed beautiful silver bollards at each station entrance to stop people taking their cars down to the platforms - a sensible move as the stairs are a bit steep in places. Anyway the Council discovered this and asked the SPT to submit retrospective planning applications for the bollards. How petty! It's about time Alex Salmond wrote some new laws for town planners to make them concentrate on the things that matter and not harass fantastic organisations like the SPT over trivial issues.

Incidentally you'll see in the photo above, the legs of a beggar sitting at the entrance to the subway - that's quite typical in Glasgow and the sooner this is dealt with the better it will be for everyone.

By the way, I forgot to mention that you can 'follow' me on Twitter now! Isn't the wide world web so great?

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Thank you Frankie and Benny!

Well I'm back in my wee house now and feeling a little bit flat to say the least. I picked up the wee boy yesterday and we went down to Frankie & Benny's at Perth's St Catherine's Leisure Park - quite a long drive. It was a bit up market and we might have been better in the ever-wonderful KFC but there you go. But Frankie's is such a good looking place and I felt very much at home there. It cheered me up for a wee while and the waitresses were magnificent. Well done to them and thank you Frankie and Benny!

I wasn't at my best though and to be honest I was consumed with anger and jealousy at the thought of my lovely wife and her young lover enjoying the pleasures of the flesh while I was away with my boy.

But apart from having the dry boke for much of the day, I was able to see some positives in Perth's wee retail park. It's not great but the essentials are there - plenty of car parking and some great buildings - especially Halfords. Good enough for the people of Perth - most of whom are English anyway.

Friday, 25 September 2009

More attacks on my hero

You know, sometimes I think Scotland is a horrible wee country. Look at the terrible things that people have done to statues across the land, trying to besmirch the good reputation of my hero Donald Trump. This is the work of the Menie Liberation Army, a bunch of sandal wearing nincompoops who are trying to halt progress on Donald's groundbreaking development just north of Aberdeen - and in the most childish manner possible. I'm confident that this will not help their case at all and that Donald will be triumphant! Businessman extraordinaire, developer, successful with younger woman, rich beyond measure and a genius - how good can one life get! Oh yes and 100% Scottish.

Anyway, this is the September weekend in many parts of Scotland and I'm going to see my young son for the first time in many months. As you probably realise, he lives with his mother - my lovely wife - and her young lover. I can't divulge details as I value his privacy, but I do wish he would stop calling me Grandad. It just isn't fair and I'm worried that they are poisoning my relationship with him. It's very upsetting but we will rise above it - maybe I will take him to a nice retail park somewhere - who knows.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Fantastic Eurocentral!

You know, I could kick myself. I was down in Lanarkshire last week as you know and managed to have a quick peek at what must be one of Scotland's premier developments - the Bellshill Hilton. Guess what - I didn't use the opportunity to go and visit Keppie's big business park at Eurocentral near Holytown and Mossend just a short distance away! I used to go out with a lovely young maiden from Holytown but that's another matter. Keppies are one of Scotland's leading firms when it comes to building prestige developments on greenfield sites and really one of the intellectual powerhouses in the field. Certainly one of my favourite consultancies as you know.

Well they've really hit the nail on the head this time. I gather that this is a magnificent piece of work and the drawings look just great - wee Alex Salmond himself said he was "delighted". What a terrific honour and a real shot in the arm for the guys that put this together. Did you know for example that most of the people who will work there can drive there because there is plentiful car parking and easy access from the M8? That's one in the eye for the public transport lobby, crying into their sandals as usual. And the landscaping is truly luscious - a veritable green paradise of golf courses and ponds where wildlife can be communed with. Biodiversity is increasingly important in our complicated world so that's another box ticked. Also according to the Keppie press release there are over 27 football pitches on the site and 756,000 sq ft of grade 'A' office space - quite an achievement to get the buildings listed as Category A so early in their lives. Really I must make a special trip down there to visit this magnificent place - a Versailles for Central Scotland.

Yes this must qualify as one of my top developments of the year alongside the Bellshill Hilton, the Tesco at Port Glasgow and possibly the new Asda at Ardrossan which was built with the generous assistance of Clydeport who donated the land. They are also one of my heroes due to their world famous and excellent development at Glasgow Harbour. Really we are very lucky to be surrounded by such great projects and I feel slightly jealous that we haven't managed to achieve this at my wee Auchterness - so far.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Tribute to a genius

I know I've written a lot recently and some impertinent folk in the office were suggesting today that I had nothing better to do. Ridiculous. As you know I like to think of myself as a man of good taste and judgement (except when it comes to the fairer sex). I was absolutely thrilled to see the BBC website carrying a feature about my favourite all time artist Jack Vettriano! You can read about him here and what a modest down-to-earth sort of guy he is - just like me!

Now apparently Jack is about to unveil a series of paintings he describes as the most difficult project he has undertaken in his 20-year career. He spent nine months in his studio producing 10 paintings inspired by a Clyde-built yacht which is 100 years old on Saturday. That's more than one painting a month - it would take me longer than that to paint a room in my wee house! These paintings are absolutely superb and I will get one for the hall as soon as they arrive in some of the larger branches of Boots.

But I have a bigger plan that's got a lot to do with planning my own wee Auchterness. I'm going to try to commission Jack to paint a gable end next to the public toilets - you know, like they used to do in the slums of Glasgow just to brighten the place up. I think I'm going to choose the painting above. It will really turn the place round and I will be known across the UK as a connoisseur of the arts. Isn't that a great idea?

Monday, 21 September 2009

Great British Architecture

Burns Monument Centre, Kilmarnock - a really great building
I noticed over the weekend that my wee Auchterness blog is being 'followed' by a really excellent site called Bad British Architecture. I had a look at the site and at first I thought it was a scurrilous attack on some of the best new buildings that can be found across the UK. Then I asked around the office and was relieved to find that in the language of the street kids, 'bad' can be good. Don't ask me to explain this but rest assured that you will find some wonderful buildings there by some of Scotland's cleverest architects like Archial - some might call them the thought leaders of the Scottish design and property development industry - see below.

So full marks go to the team behind Bad British Architecture. Have a look for yourself at this great site! By the way, I've returned the compliment and I'm following your blog now. Isn't the internet fantastic?

John O' Groats - a retail paradise!

You know, despite the best efforts of the Post Office and their workforce of malcontents and luddites, I received my personal issue of Planning this morning. Part of me is always proud to receive this publication - as a planner you are naturally proud and humbled to be able to serve communities in need - but at the same time I'm really embarrassed to be associated with 'The Journal of the Royal Town Planning Institute'. Dreary articles by self-serving dogsbodies trying to make it up the slippery pole of the Institute hierarchy for the most part. But this week I spotted something that was inspiring and truly original.
the great idea
Apparently a consultancy called GVA Grimly (who I had never heard of before) have announced a masterplan for the redevelopment of John O' Groats - that's right, the most northerly place on Smart Alex's Scottish mainland. You know, working in remote areas like John O' Groats or Auchterness is not easy - private investment is sometimes hard to come by - and so I was absolutely amazed to see that this proposal rests on the idea of John O' Groats becoming a 'destination focal point' - how well that sounds - I'm impressed to say the least! Turning the most remote part of Scotland into a shopping centre is a stroke of genius - I wish I had thought of that.

I must find out who the brain behind this staggering project belongs to. I will call to see if he can help me out in Auchterness. Great stuff - I'll be in touch!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Three cheers for the Bellshill Hilton

At last! Yesterday I was down in Lanarkshire visiting an old friend who is having some woman troubles - well I couldn't help him much - but I couldn't resist the opportunity to visit one of Scotland's premier developments. I've talked about it before briefly but seeing it in the flesh exceeded all my expectations! Truly the Bellshill Hilton is a stunning piece of work so I got out my pencil and notepad and gave it 9/10 with three gold stars and a big tick. Really - it is breathtaking. I don't know for sure but I'm assuming that this is the work of Keppies, Archial or perhaps Cooper Cromar - it's certainly too good to be the work of Donald Trump's supine architect Gareth Hopkins or Park Page (the comedians responsible for the Lighthouse).

As soon as you arrive in the car park you know you are somewhere special - as you can see above, there are fountains, ponds and luscious landscaping. It reminded me of the Tivoli Gardens near Rome - but better! Inside there is a wonderful lobby (see below) that is so modern yet seems to embody the timeless upper class values that attract posh people and business folk.

Yes I know - I scanned that picture from the brochure - but they don't allow photographs to be taken inside for obvious security reasons. Upstairs in the bedrooms it's also rather impressive and I would love to stay there sometime. The bedroom facilities include an AM/FM Alarm Clock, a desk with lamp and a TV Remote Control. You can see the complete class of the interior design not to mention that lovely Bellshill lass making the bed - she can plump up my pillows anytime.

Anyway I disgress. As you can see I'm full of praise for this outstanding example of what the Scottish property development market can produce - even with the interference of council planners - but there is one cloud on my horizon. Even at the basic rate of £69 per night, it's really for toffs. I doubt if I will ever afford to stay there. Still it won't stop me including it with a huge recommendation in my Top Ten list of Great Scottish Developments at the end of the year.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

A New Scottish Enlightenment

why are the couple on the left so tall - DT
You know, the Scottish Enlightenment was a period in 18th century Scotland characterised by intellectual and scientific accomplishments and in many ways I feel as though I am living through a second Enlightenment now though this is not an easy path.

This week one of my heroes, the Great Donald Trump, has been set upon by the great unwashed over his plans to build a great new development at Menie near Aberdeen. He has persuaded the local Council to use Compulsory Purchase powers to clear away a mess of scrapyards, bothies, caravans and rundown homes that aren't fit to live in so that he can move forward with his great visions for the area.
Also this week, his supine architect Gareth Hopkins (who I wouldn't ever have recommended on the basis that he is completely unknown) has unveiled the details of the latest masterplan. I must admit to being completely underwhelmed by this. I mean where are the great towering buildings of the original vision, the sponsored roundabouts and the retail malls? Where is B&Q and KFC? Well I suppose Donald must have seen this rubbish before it was released to the press so he must have another trick up his sleeve - possibly to fire the architects when it all goes wrong so that he can use a decent firm....or maybe do it himself!

Anyway I'm absolutely sickened that there is another petition doing the rounds trying to get the whole thing stopped. This is the greatest thing ever to happen in that part of the world and thankfully the Council listen to the great ones with the cash like Donald rather than the moaning housewifes, scroungers and ne'er-do-wells who are probably living off the state in some hovel in Torry. The Council has taken a strong lead here in supporting enterprise and private sector development in the face of prolonged attacks from wasters and we know that the money spent in building and running this development will trickle down into the pockets of those who are prepared to step up to the plate now.

Aberdeen - this is your time, your moment in history. Don't waste it!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Auchterness recognised worldwide

Fantastic! Did you know that this wee blog on Auchterness is read by people all over the world? I'll bet you thought nobody read it at all! Anyway I discovered today that the list of far flung places where Auchterness is known and appreciated for its great town planning includes Caracas, Buenos Aires, Ghana, Dubai (of course), Hanoi, Fiji, Brisbane and Vancouver. In Europe alone, my list of fans includes people from Madrid, Bratislava, Mezohegyes, Athens, Cairo and New Dehli. There's a whole lot of places in America like Colorado Springs and Ontario too. Some folk in Australia but they don't matter for now.

Closer to home there are fans in Helmond, Delft and Enschede in Holland - their whole town was flattened by a chemical explosion a few years back so the opportunities for change must be enormous - just give me a call Dutchmen! And bring over some of your tall attractive young ladies while you are at it!

Isn't it great how the world wide web has compressed the world into a smaller piece? I'm on Facebook now and you can find me here - I think that is my public profile. Sign up to be one of my friends - I will be happy to welcome you to the Auchterness community!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Of moles and men

You know, the simple things in life usually give me more pleasure than the difficult and complex job that I have, trying to build a new community here in lovely wee Auchterness despite all the grumblers and naysayers who work for our partners - or steakholders, as we are required to call them these days. Honestly if I see another vision statement I'll scream out loud!

As some of you might know, I like a game of bowls and just a few miles from Auchterness we have a wee club - that's its picture above, with Charlie our chauffeur doing a left handed effort which probably ended up nowhere as usual. There are some older women at the club too but thankfully they get to play on different nights from us so we don't have to look at them! Anyway I went down to the club the other night to find that moles had been under the green and had basically wrecked the whole place. Now I'm all for biodiversity but this is ridiculous. Thankfully it's getting close to the end of the season so maybe a few lumps don't matter. Some of the guys are putting out traps so that we can put an end to this animal vandalism. There are plenty of bureaucrats - and planners - who should suffer a similar fate!

As autumn approaches, my mind turns to my lovely wife and her young lover. I wonder how they would feel if they woke up one morning to find themselves in a big metal trap. Maybe then people would laugh at them instead of me.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Say no to Poundbury!

A couple of months back, I enthusiastically greeted the Scottish Planner in its new format, thinking that this was the way of the future and an open platform for all sorts of debate about the work of leading Scottish town planners, like me - but in colour. Well you know, I must admit to being very disappointed with the new issue, especially the bit about Poundbury written by somebody from that great firm Halcrow who have a worldwide reputation for giving people what they want.

I've never been to Poundbury but I believe it is a film set sort of village designed by Leslie Krier who it has been said is a Nazi apologist and who dresses in a very strange manner. Supposedly Prince Charles also had a hand in putting it together and of course it is very popular with the English because of that - they just can't resist the allure of royalty. Anyway, this article written by a scribe at Halcrow is a disgrace. What's worse is that Halcrow sponsor the Scottish Planner so they probably have a lot of editorial control - so it was easy to get this stuff published.

Now I don't mind a bit of a laugh but to imagine that there are any lessons here for hard working planners at the sharp end of Scottish developments is nonsense. You won't find cutting edge housebuilders like Taylor Wimpey or Persimmon indulging in this nonsense - unless it's the only way that they could get planning permission of course. You know, these guys are really on the ball so if that's what it takes to get the development through, I'm sure they would do it. Let's show the Prince a thing or two and build our own way - like Glasgow Harbour or Leith Docks. By the way, I saw some of the Leith developments recently - a gold star and a big tick to the folk who did that - very impressive.